WinSCP: Configuration and use of this SFTP client
Introduction to WinSCP
For those who don’t know, WinSCP is historically known as an SFTP/FTP client, although it is actually capable of using Amazon S3, FTP, FTPS, scp, SFTP either WebDAV. There are many ways to interact with FTP units or the like, we could even access these servers from Windows as if they were units. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to protect these servers (such as protecting Filezilla FTP servers), but then, why use WinSCP exactly?
In summary, the main function of WinSCP is the transfer and/or synchronization of files between two or more computers, although it is also known for its script, that open the door to automation of complex tasks. Starting from this base, all kinds of projects can be carried out, such as sharing Movistar TV through a Synology NAS or synchronizing Plex servers via SFTP.
If we have never used this client or other similar ones, it can initially give you some vertigo when you see the number of settings it offers, but there is nothing to be alarmed about. In this guide we are going to see how to install and configure WinSCP to make it functional as quickly and easily as possible.
The installation of the program earns a small dedicated section for a certain reason. Although it is true that WinSCP is a completely free client, there is a paid alternative. There is no difference between the free installer and the paid installer, apart from automatic updates.
This is because the free version is installed in the traditional way, downloading an installer, running it and that’s it, while the alternative is to download it from the Microsoft Store.
From WinSCP they justify the price of the paid alternative with a couple of arguments: the first is that when we download the classic version we visit their website, in such a way that they monetize the ads that are on it and also promote themselves potentially by awakening your interest in their products, and the second is that you will also see their donation screen to finance the project.
If we download it from the Microsoft Store we skip all this, being its only way of financing, so they need to put a price on the download.
In any case, both downloads will install the same program, so it does not affect what we see in the guide in any way.
Configuration and use of WinSCP
Connect to another computer
The first thing we will see when starting the program is the following screen. Depending on the use that interests us, we will select one protocol or another. In this guide we will stay with SFTP and we will show how to connect to another computer on the same local network.
We begin to fill in the fields that they ask for in the following way: In
- Name or IP: IP address of the computer to which we are connecting, although if we have assigned it a name to remember it easily, it can also be used.
- Port: By default it uses 22, it is not necessary to change it unless we know what we are doing
- User Y Password: We will use the same ones as when we logged in on the other machine
Before pressing the button Connect with the green icon, we can Save the login data that we have entered. In this way there will be a profile within the program that will take these parameters into account when we select it.
If we are going to connect repeatedly using this data then it is strongly recommended to save it. As you can see, there are also some extra settings like saving the password, which will not do it by default for security reasons, or creating a shortcut on the desktop to open WinSCP using this profile directly.
Once saved, it will appear in the list on the left along with all the others that we save, if we do. Now yes, we can connect to the equipment that we have registered.
This window will pop up if we have not saved the password in the profile. If we plan to access it regularly, we can consider saving it to skip this step. Once the password has been entered or the profile has been executed with the saved password, unless we have entered some wrong data, we will already be connected.
If we have not changed the view from the installer, this will be the way we will see the program. On the left is the device from which we are connecting, in this case a Windows computer. On the right we see the computer to which we have connected, from which we have entered the data in the connection profile, and in this case it is a computer with the well-known Ubuntu Linux distro.
Another very useful function is the Workspaceswhich translates as work areas. It will be especially relevant for more advanced users but even the newcomer can find it useful.
First of all we are going to understand what they are and then we will see how they are integrated into the program.
Well, in the last screenshot we can see that there are some tabs that do not finish adapting correctly to the dark theme. In WinSCP we can have several sessions open simultaneously, and each one of them will be accessible with these tabs.
As you can see in this clipping, we can even have several instances of the same session at the same time. If we try to close the program with a session open we will see the following pop-up window:
If we press “Yes”, then we will close the program and also the sessions that we have open. If we have saved a profile, we can quickly access it again, but it would have to be done in each instance. Otherwise, if we choose “Nope”then we will save the set of sessions (tabs) in a workspace:
We can assign a Name to be recognizable, a direct access to open the session pool more quickly (same option we’ve seen when saving a session profile), and the option to auto save this work session when we close the program, which we will normally want activated.
When we start the program again we will see that we have the profile that we have saved at the beginning of this guide, and just above the work area that we have created. Within it we have three sessions connected to the same computer, the tabs that we had open before.
Apart from the manual transfer, the next main function of this type of client is file synchronization. In this way, we can choose a directory on one computer and always have an identical copy on the other, and vice versa.
The first thing will be to have the directory that we want to keep synchronized located. Inside it we can put what suits us, whether they are files or more directories. Once located, we will give “Sync up” in the upper area or we will press the combination Ctrl+S and we will see the following window:
In local directory we will look for the folder that we want to synchronize, and in remote directory the folder where we want to synchronize it. Then we will have adjustments to taste according to our needs, which at first do not need to be manipulated.
By default WinSCP comes with the interface New Commander, but it is not the only option, and in fact, if we are not familiar with this type of distribution and have only seen the Windows file explorer, it might be advisable to change it. In any case, we are going to teach how to change from one to anotherso that each one can choose which one is better.
The first thing is to access the setting of the program. To do this, we will click on the gear icon in the upper left area, next to “Tail“, or by pressing the key combination Ctrl+Alt+P.
Within the first section “Environment” we will enter the subsection of “Interface“, also the first.
Here we can choose the Theme light, dark, or auto, which will sync with the Windows theme. Just below we will see the options of User interfaceour reason for visiting this subsection.
Initially we will have NCwhich owes its name to Norton Commander. However, for those unfamiliar with this view and set of keyboard shortcuts, we can select the Explorerwhich is much closer to the experience of windows explorer. If we change the interface we will have to restart the application for the changes to take effect, but with the theme it is not necessary.
Here we see WinSCP with the light theme and the Explorer interface, quite a change. In any of the two interfaces we will also see that the majority of options in the area superior can rearrange their position by drag with the mouse at ease.
WinSCP offers even more
WinSCP is not the only client in its category, but it is one of the best known for its Good reputation Y be free. The possibilities go far beyond what we have seen in this guide, which aims to cover the main functionality (transfer, synchronization) and accommodate the interface, which is usually the first major problem in the learning curve.
If you liked WinSCP, venture into the program’s configuration and investigate more functions, such as the terminal, the task queue…